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05-17-2011, 04:56 PM   #1
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Flash or High ISO

I went to a piano recital and came back disappointed at my shots. I wanted to try something new so I used flash. It slightly overexposed the face and created a big white reflection from the shiny piano. I made a DIY diffuser out of a yogurt container but it seemed very unprofessional using it.

Should I turn up the ISO in place of using the on-camera flash? If not, please give me some tips on how to use the on-camera flash. I try to avoid flashing people in the face as much as possible.

I don't really have any fast lenses except my 50mm f1.9, but it is manual focus. I have a hard time focusing in poor light. Also, I don't have enough money to buy a hotshoe flash.

05-17-2011, 05:11 PM   #2
Ash
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Black reflective surfaces are going to be a challenge for any camera meter, so it would be more reliable going to M mode, once you know what exposure settings you need to get the right exposure results. In concert settings, a fast lens is more important than a flash, but sometimes an external flash is necessary. With the K-x, you can get some pretty decent results if you boost ISO to 1600-3200 and expose for the player, ensuring not to clip highlights, e.g. with the kit lens and no flash:






Last edited by Ash; 05-17-2011 at 05:20 PM.
05-17-2011, 05:11 PM   #3
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I do everything possible to avoid using flash on live subjects when not shooting portrait stuff, work with your ISO!

Another thing that would help you out greatly would be some better lenses but seeing that you don't have money for a flash, I am guessing that you don't have money for a new lens either...
05-17-2011, 05:12 PM   #4
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Piano recital

The reflected light from white keyboard usually can give you enough to shot ~1/60 second at f/2.8 at 1600 or 3200 ISO for the pianist's face. Just get close to the face to meter it first if you can. That is good enough for me to capture a descent piano recital. Stay in one place to allow pre focusing your lens to ensure enough DOF, if the screen is too dark to focus swiftly.

Direct flash will result in an overexposure due to the black piano and/or void behind it and ruin the ambiance.

05-17-2011, 05:20 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
it would be more reliable going to M mode, once you know what exposure settings you need to get the right exposure results.
by the time I properly expose it, the shot would be gone
I guess i have to practice on manual exposing. I rely on Av/Tv mode too much

QuoteOriginally posted by joe.penn Quote
I do everything possible to avoid using flash on live subjects when not shooting portrait stuff, work with your ISO!
When in low light, I pull out my kit lens rather than my MF prime because I find that AF is much more accurate than me MF. Since the aperture goes all the way up to f5.6, I sometimes have to 6400 in order to get a nice picture at around 1/40s shutter speed.
Should I increase the shutter speed to around 1/20s in order to lower the ISO and allow some motion blur?
05-17-2011, 05:27 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by jellyfish26 Quote
When in low light, I pull out my kit lens rather than my MF prime because I find that AF is much more accurate than me MF.
Play around with CIF (Catch in Focus) with your prime for a bit and see how that helps you out, me personally I wouldn't use the kit lens for anything indoors (moving subjects) where light is an issue unless on the short end (18) and stopped down a click...
05-17-2011, 05:46 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by joe.penn Quote
Play around with CIF (Catch in Focus) with your prime for a bit and see how that helps you out, me personally I wouldn't use the kit lens for anything indoors (moving subjects) where light is an issue unless on the short end (18) and stopped down a click...
The problem with CIF is that I calibrated my AF for my 18-55mm using the debug mode so when I use CIF with my manual prime, I get front focusing.
05-17-2011, 05:48 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by MJL Quote
Direct flash will result in an overexposure due to the black piano and/or void behind it and ruin the ambiance.
I agree with the above.

I'm surprised that someone didn't say something to the OP. I'm an authorized photographer for a live theatre organization. They will not permit flash during rehearsals, much less the actual performance. Distracts the performers. A professional came in to take some pictures for a calendar recently, he set up his flashes without asking, and then got told to take them back down - no way.

Perhaps piano recitals are different - i don't know for sure.

05-17-2011, 06:13 PM   #9
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since the subject you are shooting will be relatively stationary, you should be able to use a manual focus lens or just manual focus on a newer lens. I invested in a good monopod for events and it will make a big difference. If you get the right focus (shutter button half way down, turning the lens until you get the "beep" and just leave it there and shoot away. If the person is sitting down, the only thing that might be a bit out of focus will be the arms/hands (which might give a good sense of action) the face should be stationary at least some of the time
I don't know what your lighting was, but I have used a monopod and an older 80-200mm F4 at indoor volleyball with shutter speeds from 100th to 1-160th of a second ISO 800 at F4 with good results... 80 percent were throw aways, but when you take a ton of shots, 20 percent adds up to some good results. shoot a little bit wider and then crop up the shot a bit... 75mm will result in less shake then 200mm...
raw is always the way to go for these situations

manual lens 80-200 f4 around 1/125 f4 ISO 800


cheers and good luck
05-17-2011, 10:35 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jellyfish26 Quote
by the time I properly expose it, the shot would be gone
No it won't. It takes a fraction of a second to press the green button; that's all it takes to get a good exposure in manual mode. And if it happens to be off a little from what you'd prefer, just increase or decrease shutter speed a notch. You've got all the time in the world - the light generally isn't changing. Get the exposure right before the first performer even goes on, then leave it alone.

Similar story with focus. I'm guessing the piano stays in the same spot the whole night. Get the focus right - using the focus confirmation in the camera if that helps, and/or some trial and error - then leave it alone.

In general, flash is *incredibly* rude to the performers and other audience members. Actually, even the shutter sound can be pretty distracting, but if you time it right, it shouldn't be too big a problem.

Using the 50 will greatly improve your pictures. No flash necessary, much faster shutter speed / lower ISO. Manual exposure and focus isn't *that8 hard. it just a few minutes practice.
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